Cristín McNeil established Willow Bridal Studio in Co Kildare in 2021, and works with experienced local seamstresses to create her designs. She will be showcasing her collection at The Bride of the Year Show at Dublin’s RDS on 28 and 29 January.

1. What is your earliest style memory?

As a child, I wouldn’t leave the house without my frilly socks being perfectly turned over and my black patent leather shoes being polished. I would have been three or four years old! I do remember measuring to make sure that the two socks were folded over the same length. I had my mother’s heart broken.

Cristín McNeill established Willow Bridal Studio in Co Kildare in March 2021, and works with experienced local seamstresses to create her designs. \ Brenda McGuire

2. What was your pathway to becoming a bridal designer?

I wouldn’t have been the most confident person in the world leaving school, so fashion to me seemed like a very scary prospect. I’m a curvy woman and I always felt like fashion was not accessible to me, so I studied interiors because I loved design in general. But I actually have been sketching wedding dresses since I was eight or nine. I used to drag my cousins and my sister into a game of wedding designer; I’d make them give me a brief and I’d sketch a dress to match. But I didn’t gain the confidence to pursue it as a career until during COVID. I did a lot of soul-searching and confidence-building and said, “Do you know what? I’m going to go for it.”

3. How would you describe your design style?

I gravitate towards ethereal styles, so they would look quite light and quite organic. I like the use of different textured fabrics together, so tulle with lace with velvet and beading. I have sample sizes in 6-32 and I’m working on expanding that further.

4. A unique part of your business is that you provide a mobile dress party service; what does this involve?

After a phone consultation with the bride, I come out to them on a pre-arranged date and they can invite as many people as they like. I bring a rail of pre-handpicked dresses, a big mirror and a bottle of prosecco and we just basically have a party! We spend three to four hours trying dresses on and really looking at fabrics and how they move. Taking a relaxed approach to it is my main goal, because a lot of the brides that come to me would be very anxious or would not have enjoyed the shopping experience. It’s a huge purchase, and you really need the confidence behind the design, so that’s where I came up with the idea of trying on different styles of dresses as part of the process. (The fee for a dress party is €200, which is redeemable off dress purchased.)

5. What is your favourite celebrity wedding dress of all time?

Amy Huberman’s dress, which was designed by Stephanie Allin. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It’s over a decade ago now since that dress became famous and people would still buy it, because it’s a classic design.

Willow Bridal Studio dresses are available in sample sizes in 6-32. \ Brenda McGuire

6. That well-known person would you love to design for?

Probably Lizzo [Grammy-winning singer and musician]. She would really push the boat and go for a design that would never grace media on a curvy body and I think it would give women in general confidence to just go for what they want instead of what they feel they should wear. She would walk up that aisle with the most pizzazz you could ask anyone to do!

7. With sustainability in mind, how can a wedding dress be given another life after the big day?

Using or altering a wedding dress to make them into a christening grown or a communion dress is a very Irish thing to do, but also I love the thought of selling them on. Now, no bride ever wants to think about selling their wedding dress when they’re getting it made, but it is a great option for somebody else to wear it afterwards. As I expand, buying them back from brides will probably be a step I’ll take too.

I got married in 2013 and I didn’t hold on to my dress. I donated it to a charity called Dresses for Angels, where they make christening gowns for babies in hospital who pass away and don’t get to go home.

I don’t think these dresses are made for turning yellow in an attic. They’re beautiful and they deserve to go out and shine somewhere.

Cristín McNeill established Willow Bridal Studio in Co Kildare in March 2021, and works with experienced local seamstresses to create her designs. \ Brenda McGuire

Top tips for wedding dresses

  • With your entourage, make sure it’s people that you trust not only to give their opinion, but to give it in a constructive way.
  • Wear underwear that gives you comfort and confidence. Dresses that are made for you should always be comfortable to wear. If shapewear makes you feel your best, wear shapewear. If your cotton pants make you feel your best, wear those!
  • Get your hair done before your appointment. It will give you that much more confidence and feeling like you’re already a super model.
  • More info

    Dresses in the Willow Bridal Studio collection are made to order, but range from €1,250 - €2,000. Call 085-284-6128 or follow @willowbridalstudio on Instagram. The Bride of the Year Show at Dublin’s RDS takes place on 28 and 29 January, for tickets visit

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    Style file: Doireann Healy of Begley & Bowie

    Style File: with designer Niamh O’Neill